Sen. Cantwell Targeted After Second Sohn Hearing Slated

Sen. Maria Cantwell
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wasbn.)

Fight for the Future (FFTF) is fighting mad over a second Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the nomination of Gigi Sohn to the open Federal Communications Commission seat and has directed its anger at the powerful committee‘s chairwoman, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

The group sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) calling on him to remove Cantwell as chair over what it said was “her refusal to advance [President Joe] Biden‘s highly qualified nominee to the FCC, Gigi Sohn.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, had suggested the need for a second hearing over issues related to Sohn's association with former TV station streamer Locast.

The committee had already held a hearing on her nomination back in December, but because no vote had been taken — likely because there were not enough Democratic votes at the time — her nomination had to be resubmitted by the President in the new year, but that did not necessarily mean she had to have a new hearing.

There is no indication that Cantwell is purposely trying to slow-roll the nomination. 

More likely is that she was making sure the vote would be favorable, and there has been some talk that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) might need persuading after progressive Democrats hammered her — including paying for a billboard in her home state branding her "corrupt"--during the net neutrality debate for not voting to repeal the 2017 FCC decision to eliminate the net neutrality rules, rules that Sohn stumped for under then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. According to sources, supporters of Sohn have reached out to Sinema to tell her Sohn had no part in the billboard incident.

Cantwell had not granted the hearing but instead scheduled a vote on Sohn's nomination this week. After Democratic committee member Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico suffered a stroke, though, that vote was put off due to a lack of Democratic votes for Sohn's and two other nominations with which Republicans had some issues, including a fifth Federal Trade Commission member.

Following that announced delay, and with Lujan still recovering in the hospital, Cantwell granted the second Sohn hearing for February 9.

Cantwell's office had no comment at deadline on the letter. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.